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Senator marks fourth anniversary of airport protest

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Demonstration flashpoint: A protester wipes her eyes after pepper spray was used by police outside the House of Assembly on December 2, 2016 (File photograph by Akil Simmons)
Owen Darrell

A Government Senator claimed yesterday that the transfer of the L Frederick Wade International Airport to a public private partnership was directly connected to the financial struggles some Bermudians are facing now.

Owen Darrell, the junior minister for the Cabinet Office, education and public works, said he was moved to speak on the fourth anniversary of protests outside the House of Assembly over the airport deal.

Protesters blocked the entrance to the House of Assembly on December 2, 2016, preventing MPs from debating the issue of the airport lease to a Canadian company. Several people were pepper sprayed by police during the protest.

Mr Darrell began by saying he had not intended to speak during the Motion to Adjourn. But yesterday morning he saw several images posted on his mobile phone depicting the 2016 airport protest outside the House of Assembly.

“The caption below said ’December 2’ – exactly four years ago today,” Sen Darrell said.

“I woke up after seeing these images and I was sad.

“There’s a term that says you should forgive and forget and those images will not allow anyone to forget. I’m not sure how much forgiveness can be given at this time, but you definitely cannot forget.

Mr Darrell said: “There are many people in this country that are struggling. I see e-mails all day that talk about anxiety levels – people threatening to take their lives because they cannot deal with the levels of stress. People taking shots and digs at public officers because they cannot get the financial assistance response they want in a timely manner.

“You may say how is any of that connected. I’m going to go back to December 2 and that whole protest was about the airport deal that the PLP was protesting at the time.

“We had looked through the numbers and we just could not see how it was going to work.

“Four years later, they’re about to have a ceremony to open this new airport. But in quarter two of 2020 this Government had to pay the owners of that airport $5 million, and in quarter three, the Government had to pay the owners of the airport $15m.

“It makes me sad that some may want us to forget what happened on December 2, 2016 but when you see the e-mails, the calls, people stopping you in the grocery store, the look on people’s faces of ‘I don’t know how I’m going to survive next week, next month, into next year’, it hurts.

“I wanted to take this time to remember December 2, 2016. I want to give thanks to those individuals – many of whom were not elected officials – who on December 2 decided to stand up for something that they may not have known would cost them $20 million in 2020 but they could see that it was not a good deal.

“As we reflect on four years ago, I just want to tell everyone in Bermuda to hang in there. I can tell you that without a shadow of a doubt that this Government is doing all they can to make the days and weeks that are coming less rough.”

John Wight, independent Senator, said afterward: “The process of creating an independent bi-partisan panel of highly respected people in our community, was a good one.

“The Airport Deal was not easy to determine for the average person, or for highly experienced financial experts for that matter.

“The independent panel created by the Government of the day, sought to provide clarity to a complex deal, so that Bermudians would be better able to make judgments for themselves as to whether this was best for Bermuda, or not.”

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Published December 02, 2020 at 2:30 pm (Updated December 03, 2020 at 12:58 pm)

Senator marks fourth anniversary of airport protest

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